‘One Youth, One Nation’ is a Campaign organized by the International Youth Alliance for Peace (IYAP). IYAP founded in November 2013 provides a platform for the young volunteers to come together and work towards Sustainable Social Development through Empowerment, Mobilization and Innovation. As a country which underwent various civil and social conflicts, IYAP believes that Sri Lanka needs an attitudinal change as well as knowledge and skills that can enhance the relationships within different communities.
They also recognized that even though Sri Lanka was recently liberated from war, the Sri Lankan youth is still negligent of the International Peace Day. Not only are they unaware of the exact date, they are also ignorant of its significance. This became the reason behind the initiation of the campaign ‘One Youth, One Nation’.
The campaign was centered around acknowledging and celebrating the peace day as well as creating a stage for open communication, sharing stories and networking amongst the youth. Established in 1981 Unanimously under the United Nations Resolution 36/37, the ‘International Day of Peace’ (Peace Day) is observed worldwide every 21st of September. According to the declaration of the UN general Assembly this day is devoted to “commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples.” (UN)
The Peace Day theme for the year 2016 is “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace.” The New 2030 UN agenda require countries to strive to reach these goals in 15 years. These goals when achieved will end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. (UN)
“The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are our shared vision of humanity and a social contract between the world’s leaders and the people,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “They are a to-do list for people and planet, and a blueprint for success.” (UN)
These 17 Goals were shared at the One Youth, One Nation Campaign in Sri Lanka. In order to share the goals and to educate the youth on how to strengthen the ideals of peace within and in the community IYAP conducted a nationwide massive cluster of workshops on the same day. These amounted to a total of 13 workshops across ten districts, covering eight provinces of Sri Lanka.
“The Sri Lankan Youth are the backbone for inspiration of the community”, says IYAP. Which is why IYAP took measures to create awareness among the young, of the importance of Peace and the relationship between youth and peace. This also included of how they can contribute to build peace in the community. To drive these facts home and as encouragement to share their own stories of peace, testimonies from a diverse group of speakers were shared in these wrkshops.
Beginning these valuable two hour sessions with an energizing game on peace, in addition to the above the objectives covered and the topics discussed included the following areas as well. Promoting intellectual dialog and mutual understanding. Enhancing their imagination and thinking power to come up with innovative peace building processes. Promoting peaceful co-existence. Providing development opportunities to empower the younger generation to create positive change. Teaching the young ones how to develop the community by building peace, protecting human rights, empowering youth, etc.
Rolling out this massive campaign and bringing together the youth of the country to become One Youth, One Nation was no mere feat. Which is why IYAP reached out and built a collective of partners, who are all voluntary organisations working with youth. The organisations who partnered with IYAP in this enormous effort of bringing One Youth, One Nation to life are Sri Lanka Unites, Jaffna Social Action Centre (JASC), American Centre –Jaffna, Advance Technological Institute, Jaffna, Muslim Aid, Family Well-being Centre, Rotract Club of University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka and Rotract Club of Chunnakam, Sri Lanka.
At the end of productive two hours, not only did the participants manage to define peace according to their own beliefs, but also opened up a dialog on the depth of the concept of peace. This proved that the IYAP and the collective of organisations were headed in the right direction. This self-education process led the youth to identify the concept of peace to be ‘Positive Change’. The open discussion also included conversations on how can they help build peace and if they are ‘Agents of Positive Change’.
In their own words, given below are a few testimonials on the workshops from the participants, officials and partners.
“One Youth, One Nation Campaign was an excellent initiative, I participated in the workshop hosted in Jaffna, it opened up my thoughts as to how young people like me can contribute towards Peace in our country” – Abinaya Suntharalingam (Jaffna participant)
“I am from Matara, I participated in the Matara workshop in Sri Lanka Unites Center, I understood the concept of peace and the importance of peace building in a multicultural country” – Arunuradha Samaranayake (participant from Matara)
“After the 30-year-old war, whatever has happened, you are ready to move forward despite of politics, cultural background and old generation. To mobilize people, this kind of grass root initiative is important. It’s a great example that money is not an issue of you want to do something good for the country” – (A Participant from the Peradeniya University)
“Our, ‘One Youth One Nation’ campaign represents young people from diverse socio-economic contexts across the country. While making an effort to understand their values, ideas and beliefs. this campaign helped us unite the younger generation across various communities in order to advocate peace through various measures. We at IYAP, strongly believe that such an effort would undoubtedly empower the young and create an understanding of the society they live in.” – Thirukumar Premakumar – Founder President of the International Youth Alliance for Peace.
“Reconciliation is an everyday process where every citizen of a nation should celebrate and live up to. We as a youth movement for hope and reconciliation, engaging with young student leaders across the island on the international peace day, make us proud to be liaising as ‘One Youth, One Nation’.” – National Coordinator – Srilanka Unites
With such a positive outcome for the 21st September efforts, all IYAP has left is to move forward, because this is just the beginning of One Youth, One Nation. In order to bring about ‘Positive Change’, groom ‘Agents of Positive Change’ and become One Youth, One Nation, IYAP along with their collective of partners has a long way to go. They are reaching out to more organisations and expanding their volunteer pool who will support their efforts in rolling out the second phase of One Youth, One Nation.
Until then IYAP leaves us with the message:
Peace is to have inner peace as well as peace among the people and the Youth is the foundation of a Nation. Let’s come together to become One Youth, One Nation for the prosperity of Lanka Matha.